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Chapter 07: Sixteen Matra Talas
This is the first of many chapters covered in this
unit and unit five to discuss the garland of talas
that exist in tabla. Tala
cycles range as small as three matras to as large as
108 matras. Matras beyond
sixteen are not commonly used at present. In fact, matras
beyond sixteen are meant for dhrupad and pakhawaj
compositions. As dhrupad and pakhawaj compositions
are very low in popularity, talas greater than
sixteen matras also lost their popularity.
Currently, six, seven, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen,
and sixteen matra talas are
very common in classical, semiclassical, and modern types of music in
The first talas that will
be taught are sixteen matra talas.
The first tala in this unit taught is the “tintal.” The
word “tintal” means “three claps.” Notice in Chapter
6, the claps in the clappingwaving convention is called a “tali.”
Sixteen matra with three talas
is the best way to describe it.
The actual tala contains
four vibhags. Each of the four vibhags
contains four matras each. Thus, they are divided
4444. The jati of this tala
is catastra jati. In fact,
this is the very tala we used to explain the
fundamentals of tala.
Reviewing the accent technique for tintal: Remember that sam and
accent numbers receive claps, while zero receives waves. The first row
indicates the matra number. The second row indicates
accent numbers. The bottom row indicates the clap and wave sequences.
1 
2 
3 
4 
5 
6 
7 
8 
9 
10 
11 
12 
13 
14 
15 
16 
X 
2 
3 
4 
2 
2 
3 
4 
0 
2 
3 
4 
3 
2 
3 
4 
CLAP 
2 
3 
4 
CLAP 
2 
3 
4 
WAVE 
2 
3 
4 
CLAP 
2 
3 
4 
Figure 7.2
Now, it is time to represent the actual tintal cycle. Here it is:
X 



2 



0 



3 



1 
2 
3 
4 
5 
6 
7 
8 
9 
10 
11 
12 
13 
14 
15 
16 
dhā 
dhin 
dhin 
dhā 
dhā 
dhin 
dhin 
dhā 
dhā 
tin 
tin 
tā 
tā 
dhin 
dhin 
dhā 
Figure 7.3
Look at the notation used above. This is the
notation we will use for this textbook. This is known as the Bhatkhande notation. It consists of three
lines (maybe four or five, depending on if musical notes or words are being
played or sung). The first line indicates the tala
signs, such as X for sam, 2,3,…
for talis after the sam,
and 0 for khali. The middle line indicates the matra numbers. The last line shows which bols fall at what points of the rhythmic cycle.
Play this cycle on the tabla.
Listen to the flow of the tala and notice that matras 1, 5, and 13 have natural accents. Matra 9 is least accented. Play this tala
continuously for five or six cycles. After completing the final cycle, recite
while clapping and waving. It sounds incredibly similar to the actual tabla cycle. This is the usefulness of the clappingwaving
method.
When playing any tala,
always recite the tala matras
while using the clappingwaving method. After reciting one cycle of reciting tala matras, include bols while clappingwaving your hands. After one cycle of
reciting bols, play the tabla
for a few cycles.
This cycle of tintal is
the standard cycle. The simple, standard style of a particular tala is known as the theka. The theka,
usually, involves simple bols and usually based on
the “onebol per matra”
formula.
Of course, there are many renditions of this tala, which are really derived from the theka.
Here is one style:
X 



2 



0 



3 




1 
2 
3 
4 
5 
6 
7 
8 
9 
10 
11 
12 
13 
14 
15 
16 

dhā 
dhi 
ra 
dhi 
ra 
dhā 
dhā 
dhi 
ra 
dhi 
ra 
dhā 
dhā 
ti 
ra 
ti 
ra 
tā 
tā 
dhi 
ra 
dhi 
ra 
dhā 
Figure 7.4
This is a prakar or a rendition of tintal.
The whole concept of prakar and theka
will be discussed in great detail in Unit Four. Nevertheless, notice on matras 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, and 15, each cell is divided
in half. The half cells indicate half matras.
Mathematically speaking, if you define one matra to
be equal to one second, then the half matra will be
0.5 seconds. If you have a musical background and know about duration of beats,
this shouldn’t be a new concept. To someone totally new into music, this might
be somewhat difficult.
Here is another prakar.
X 



2 



0 



3 



1 
2 
3 
4 
5 
6 
7 
8 
9 
10 
11 
12 
13 
14 
15 
16 
dhā 
dhin 
dhin 
dhā 
dhā 
dhin 
dhin 
dhā 
dhā 
tira 
tun 
tā 
tā 
dhin 
dhin 
dhā 
Figure 7.5
This is one of the most very common prakars ever. In fact, some will use this more than the theka, as “tiratun” is more
commonly used phrase. It adds flavor to the style. Some artists will replace matra 12
The possibilities of great combinations keeping this
tintal pattern exist. Try out this common style,
commonly known amongst the Benares Gharana. For the elementary tabla
player, this style might seem “incorrect” as the talis
do not truly work out here. However, it is their unique baya
playing technique which allows them to make it work. However, don’t worry too
much on that. Right now, focus on playing this.
X 



2 



0 



3 



1 
2 
3 
4 
5 
6 
7 
8 
9 
10 
11 
12 
13 
14 
15 
16 
nā 
dhin 
dhin 
nā 
nā 
dhin 
dhin 
nā 
nā 
tin 
tin 
nā 
nā 
dhin 
dhin 
nā 
Figure 7.6
Before moving on, please remember that “matras” indicate time. One matra
indicates a particular unit of time. Talas are based
on “matras per cycle.” Do not confuse matra with the number of bols.
The phrase bols have been appropriately split up.
When one matra is equally divided by two, then there
are two half matras. Dividing a matra
implies fractional time.
SITARKHANI
TALA
Another tala of great
importance is sitarkhani tala. This has a similar behavior to Punjabi sitar
playing movements, as some people believe. As this is commonly used, people
assumed that this tala was invented by tabla player “Siddhar Khan.”
Thus, “siddharkhanetala”
in Urdu translates to “Siddhar Khan’s groove.”
Throughout time, the words might have been changed. Nevertheless, this is a
commonly used semiclassical tala.
Unlike tintal, half matras, and uneven
full matras are introduced. An uneven full matras means that one whole matra
is found within a fraction from the first matra to
the corresponding fraction of the second matra. For
instance, half way through matra
The division of the tala sitarkhani is exactly the same as tintal.
The divisions are 4444, while talis on sam, matra 5, and matra 13, and khali on matra 9. We use two rows to describe the talas. Rows, generally, do not affect time. If we had a
longer piece of paper, we could write it in a straight chain like Figure 7.4,
7.5, and 7.6.
Here is the theka:
X 



2 




1 
2 
3 
4 
5 
6 
7 
8 

dhā 
ge 
dhin 
ge 
dhā 
dhā 
ge 
dhin 
ge 
dhā 

0 



3 




9 
10 
11 
12 
13 
14 
15 
16 

dhā 
ke 
tin 
ke 
tā 
tā 
ge 
dhin 
ge 
dhā 













Figure 7.7
Notice in the first vibhag,
the “ge” occupies the first half of matra 2, while “dhin” starts on
the second half of matra 2 and ends into the halfway
point of matra 3. “Ge”
completes the rest of matra 3. When counting this matra, try counting the first vibhag
as “1and2and3and4and” to consider the half matras.
The “ands” represent the half matras.
The best way to understand fractional matras is by simply practicing all forms of tintal and the theka of sitarkhani tala. Do not consider
moving ahead, for future chapters will involve fractional matras.
In addition, be sure you can play tintal and sitarkhani tala, keeping time,
sharpness, and accuracy. Improvisations will come naturally, but do not worry
about this as of yet.
Remember, this is not like a regular course where
things just come in within a few weeks. This takes constant practice and
regular enforcement.
UPDATED: June 20, 2009